Lenfest Institute launches Local News Infrastructure Fund to accelerate adoption of key technology

Newspack and BlueLena will be the first services supported by the Fund

January 18, 2024

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The Lenfest Institute for Journalism today announced the creation of the Lenfest Local News Infrastructure Fund, which makes critical technology infrastructure and services more accessible to local news publishers across the United States. The Fund is intended to accelerate the growth of high-value, affordable digital technology, marketing, and other services that local news organizations need to create digital products, build audiences, and grow sustainably.

The Infrastructure Fund is initially to be used by the Newspack publishing platform and BlueLena marketing and digital revenue services. It is made possible by a three-year, $7.25 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Philanthropists interested in making additional tools and services available to more local news publishers are welcome to join the Fund. 

“In order to serve their communities sustainably, local news publishers need to effectively engage audiences and develop digital revenue streams. The platforms supported by the Lenfest Local News Infrastructure Fund will empower publishers to do just that,” said Lenfest Institute Chief Operating Officer Ken Herts. “We’re grateful to the Knight Foundation, and we look forward to welcoming more funders and supporting more services as we work together on essential solutions for the next era of local news.” 

Newspack is an all-in-one publishing, monetization, and analytics platform that serves over 250 independent local news publishers. It is built by Automattic, the commercial arm of WordPress. The Fund will subsidize the initial costs for news organizations switching to Newspack and support hands-on consulting for the use of the tools for revenue and audience growth. 

BlueLena works with publishers to drive audience growth and monetization through technology management and professional services. The company helps align news brands, newsroom resources, and content strategy with audience needs, building and managing reader revenue programs, campaign management and audience growth plans.. With the Infrastructure Fund’s support, BlueLena will work with publishers to grow reader revenue and audience engagement.

Local publishers interested in working with either organization with support from the Infrastructure Fund can contact Newspack or BlueLena ([email protected] or by scheduling a call here) directly.

“Newspack and BlueLena already serve hundreds of publishers, and we’re glad that the Lenfest Local News Infrastructure Fund will allow them to serve hundreds more,” said Knight Foundation program director Marc Lavallee. “We want to make these technology solutions — and more — available to publishers of all sizes without friction. The Fund will serve as a technology and business accelerator, speeding the adoption of solutions that have demonstrated success.”

The Infrastructure Fund aims to scale the market served by Newspack, BlueLena, and other tools and services. The Infrastructure Fund will track the impact of the expanded market opportunity to understand how they can achieve fiscal sustainability from client revenue. 

An Advisory Board composed of representatives of The Lenfest Institute, Knight Foundation, and local news publishers will help guide the Infrastructure Fund by providing input into programming, recommending the addition or discontinuation of vendors, and evaluating progress in achieving the Fund’s goals. 

“BlueLena provides access to best-in-class tools and talent for community news organizations,” said BlueLena Founder and CEO Daniel Williams. “This fund will help stabilize and nurture emerging, mission-driven services like BlueLena, where we seek to level the playing field by providing affordable, equitable access to technology and cross-disciplinary expertise in audience, revenue and product.”

“Knight and Lenfest were early supporters of Newspack when it first launched in 2019,” said Newspack founder Kinsey Wilson. “Their continued support is a huge vote of confidence in the service we’ve built and its value to local news publishers.”

The initiative, previously announced as an effort overseen by LION Publishers, moved to The Lenfest Institute in late 2023. 

For updates on the Infrastructure Fund and for more information about opportunities from The Lenfest Institute, please subscribe to the Institute’s Solution Set newsletter

Photo by Justin Morgan / Unsplash

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